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Unsettled Child


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I've been looking after the most lovely child for a year and a half (she's nearly 3) and she's always been very happy, cheeky and chatty and we've established a lovely and close relationship. Over the last few weeks however she has seemed really unsettled at odd times throughout the day and today, for the first time , she didn't want her mum to leave and cried all the way to playgroup saying she wanted her mum instead. She wouldn't say goodbye to me or have a cuddle and just wanted to go home. As this is so unusual I've chatted to mum to try to find out what the problem is but mum doesn't seem to know although she seems concerned. They have a lot going on at home and a 5 month old baby but none of this is new.

I feel quite demoralised as this child is one of the reasons I childmind. Logically I know it can't be because of me but it's hard not to take rejection personally. Has anyone any ideas?

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Hi and welcome Alice.

I havent got any suggestions Im afraid that you havent already thought of but maybe tomorrow will be different. Can you give her some opportunities to express herself perhaps witha puppet or a doll? Has anything changed within your environment/ setting?

meanwhile, have a big hug and hope you feel less demoralised soon.

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I have a similar problem, still not got to the bottom of it.


Although I know what you mean.


Its hard not to take it personal, its also hard work and draining. But I keep telling myself it will pass.. change or a phase..


Sorry, I do not have any answers, ill be interested to also hear any advice...

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Hi it could be the younger baby - sometimes I think it takes a while for children to display their moods - we had a little boy in our setting and when his little brother was around 6 months old he really displayed some challenging behaviour - could be she needs a little bit more atten at home.


Good luck and it is lovely to hear how much you love to look after her. dot :o

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Hi Alice and welcome to the forum.


Could be a 'million' reasons behind this 'downturn' - highly unlikely to be anything you have done.


Have you spoken to her pre-school key person - it maybe that she is experiencing some new 'difficulty' there.



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Hi Alice, welcome to the Forum.


Please don't be disheartened, I've been in this position a year ago and it DOES pass!! A wise nursery teacher told me that the child was only able to express her emotions in this way because she felt so secure with me - it made me feel so much better to look at it from that viewpoint.


This little girl was in Nursery, had been with me from 9 months old and was bright, outgoing and confident. Suddenly, almost overnight, she began to cry when Mum brought her here and again when I took her to Nursery and when I picked her up from Nursery.


She told her Grandma she felt sad and unhappy but when Mum questioned her about it, having overheard, laughed and said "only teasing" . Mum was a few weeks pregnant and wondered if this was the cause even though they'd not told their daughter at this stage.


It continued for 2-3 weeks, her parents were worried, I was worried, we'd all involved Nursery and none of us could say what had triggered this change in behaviour. Mum works in a Primary school and the staff there were baffled, too. Interestingly, one teacher, however, did say it was amazingly advanced, almost manipulative behaviour for a three and a half year old because she'd seen similar in older children.


We tried altering her drop off and pick up routines, taking it in turns to see if we all got the same reaction.


We tried comfort toys, cuddles, extra attention, stickers and rewards with no joy.


We tried ignoring the tears and "I'm sad" routine with little effect.


Then, again overnight, it JUST STOPPED!!!!!!!!!


Much relief all round, child back to her usual chatty, happy self and no trace of the behaviour that had us all so concerned.


To this day we have no explanation for or understanding of what happened!!


I know how upsetting it is, I wondered if people thought it was MY fault or that she was unhappy being with me but when we were home and it was just the two of us she would often choose to come for a love and a cuddle! She'd freely tell her parents that she loved me but couldn't explain why she was "sad".


I'd honestly advise "letting it be".


Give her the time and space to think through her emotions and just keep reassuring her that she's loved and that you want to help her, if she wants to tell you what's bothering her.


I hope, for all of you, that it's just a phase and will soon be over!



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Thank you so much, it's really helpful to hear that other people experience the same thing. Nona's comment about it often being the people closest to the child who get the unwanted behaviour rings true. I've seen it in other children but it hadn't occured to me. I suspect the baby and changes at home are triggering the unsettledness and I'm bearing the brunt of that. I shall keep persevering as she's worth it!

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